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November 21, 2012

Ultimate Preview - UT vs. TCU

The Opponent
Who: TCU Horned Frogs
Location: Fort Worth, Texas
Colors: White, Purple
Series Record: Texas leads 61-20-1

Record: 6-4 (3-4 Big 12)
National Ranking: AP - NR; Coaches Poll - NR

Head Coach: Gary Patterson
Record at Iowa State: 115-34 (20th year)
Total Record: 115-34

The Game
When: Nov. 22, 2012, 6:31 p.m. CDT
Where: Austin, TX
Venue: Darrell K Royal - Texas Memorial Stadium/
Joe Jamail Field

Radio: Longhorn Sports Network Radio (affiliates)

Vegas Line: Texas -7
The Numbers

1: David Ash ranks first in the Big 12 and eighth in the FBS in passing efficiency with a rating of 161.68.

11: Johnathan Gray (ninth/60.7) and Joe Bergeron (11th/55.0 ypg) rank among the top 11 in the Big 12 in rushing with Gray the top freshman rusher (No. 13 in FBS).

17: Thursday's nationally-televised contest will mark the final appearance in Austin for 17 seniors on the Texas roster.

The Quote

"Realignment has changed history and changed traditions, which I don't like. But it's fact, it's real and it's happening. And when A&M left our league, and the decision was made that the two teams would not play anymore, I wanted to still play on Thanksgiving.

- Mack Brown

For years, Thanksgiving week in Texas meant the annual holiday contest against Texas A&M. While the Aggies have left for the SEC, the Longhorns didn't have to go far to find a replacement on the schedule.

Texas Christian was a long-time rival of the Longhorns when both schools were in the Southwest Conference. But when that league died, the schools went their separate ways until the departure of the Aggies, and the Missouri Tigers, left the Big 12 with openings to fill.

It was natural that the Horned Frogs would slip into Texas A&M's slot on the schedule, and the game is again critical to the Longhorns. With an 8-2 record and two games against ranked teams remaining, Texas' postseason fate will be determined by its finish.

If the Longhorns win out, it could still take a share of the Big 12 title and perhaps reach a BCS berth. If not, or if it splits the last two, it could wind up in the Cotton Bowl against LSU, or perhaps old friend Texas A&M. A pair of losses, however, would leave Texas in a lesser bowl that wouldn't make the fans happy.

Both coach Mack Brown and defensive coordinator Manny Diaz were under fire following blowout losses to West Virginia and Oklahoma, a 56-50 escape against Baylor, and a 21-17 last-minute win against woeful Kansas. A pair of wins over Texas Tech and Iowa State have the bandwagon back on the road, but the Thanksgiving date with a new holiday opponent will go a long way to determining whether it stays there.


Kicker Anthony Fera was expected to solidify a position of weakness when he transferred from Penn State before the season started. But Fera was injured early and has been inconsistent since earning the starting job. Nick Jordan replaced him during the Iowa State game, and the two will likely continue battling for the coaches' confidence down the stretch.

Long snapper Nate Boyer is the first recipient of the Armed Forces Merit Award. The honor, given by the Football Writers Association of America, is given to an individual or group that has brought distinction and recognition to both the military and college football.

David Ash is only a sophomore, but he's already in ninth place on the Longhorns career passing list. With 3,433 yards, he passed Bobby Layne and Garrett Gilbert in the victory over Iowa State.

SCOUTING THE TCU OFFENSE: TCU had difficulty getting jumpstarted against Kansas State on Nov. 10, settling for a 35-yard field goal on fourth-and-16 with 6:59 remaining to avert a shutout. The Horned Frogs later added a touchdown off a late fumble recovery. Still, productivity was spotty at best in the 23-10 defeat. With 138 yards in the fourth quarter, TCU managed more than half its production in that period once the outcome was decided. RB Matthew Tucker was a consistent threat, which was encouraging, but the Horned Frogs must play with a lead to capitalize fully on their ground attack.

SCOUTING THE TCU DEFENSE: No matter what conference TCU is associated with, defense will always be a staple for a team coached by Gary Patterson. The high-flying Big 12 presents a difficult challenge, yet the Frogs have emerged as one of the top defenses in the league. Their effort solving Kansas State's balanced attack was one of the best the Wildcats faced all season, as they were held to 260 yards. Nine tackles behind the line of scrimmage keyed the effort, and standouts such as DE Devonte Fields, CB Jason Verrett and FS Elisha Olabode continue to establish themselves as some of the best defenders in the Big 12. All are underclassmen.


DE Devonte Fields-True freshman defensive end Devonte Fields tops the Big 12 in tackles for loss (15 1/2) and is third in sacks (8), trailing Meshak Williams (K-State) and Alex Okafor (Texas) by a half sack for the conference lead.

QB Trevone Boykin-Only a redshirt freshman, Boykin was thrown into action when Casey Pachall was suspended for the year. Boykin has shown an ability to make big plays and he can also do enough damage with his legs to keep the Texas defense honest. He has made some mistakes when pressured so Texas could have a chance to force a turnover or two.

WR Josh Boyce-The Horned Frogs have some players who can do damage in space, something Texas has struggled with at times this year. Boyce leads the team with 56 catches for 756 yards and 7 TDs, including a 94-yard strike against West Virginia. Boyce is one of just three players nationally to have at least 600 yards receiving and six receiving touchdowns in the last three seasons.


1. Play it even - Texas would appear to be the slightly better team on paper and this game is in Austin, so the Horns have an obvious advantage there. If Texas

2. Avoid the trap - This game will be TCU's Super Bowl, and the Horns have to worry about looking ahead to Kansas State. Texas has to match TCU's intensity early.

3. Get 'em on the ground - Offenses have had success making the Texas defense miss tackles in space, and TCU is one of the better teams in the conference in this area. The Longhorns need to keep up their recent tackling efforts.


The Frogs' success largely depends on whether QB Trevone Boykin can get protection from the offensive line. When he's pressured he's made some bad throws and he doesn't throw well outside the pocket. TCU does have weapons at wide receiver. Brandon Carter has playmaking ability and speed and is a complete receiver who can make yards after the catch. LaDarius Brown can make big plays and Josh Boyce is consistently effective.

The Longhorn secondary has played well of late but TCU will be one of the group's toughest tests in a while. Kenny Vaccaro continues to play at a high level and both starting corners have been consistently good of late. This should be a good match-up.

TCU hasn't had a lot of run offense lately. B.J. Catalon has some explosiveness and can get out in space. Matthew Tucker is more of a power back, a little more consistent. The bye week helped Tucker, who has been dealing with an ankle injury, get closer to 100 percent. TCU has to run the football better than they have of late in order to win.

The Texas run defense was absolutely atrocious early in the year, but it's really made strides of late. Steve Edmond is playing his best football after a somewhat slow start, which has really helped this group. True freshman Peter Jinkens was very active against Iowa State and he could seen increased playing time.

This has been the TCU offense's area of weaknesses. The OL is really young at the tackle positions, with two freshmen leading the way. Both Aviante Collins and Halapoulivaati Vaitai (say that quickly three times ... hell, say it one time) have kind of struggled at times. Senior center James Fry helps anchor the OL, but it hasn't been able to get a ton of push and has struggled in pass protection.

Alex Okafor continues to play at an all-American level and he should have several chance to make plays this week. Reggie Wilson and Cedric Reed have done some nice things opposite him, but they need more consistency. The same can be said for the defensive tackles.

The defensive line has been good in run defense but the TCU linebackers have had issues all season. They've not always been quick enough from the LB position to track guys down. Kenny Cain is the senior leader and he has been solid. Joel Hasley, a walk on, has started some. Marcus Mallet has picked up more work of late.

Texas continues to run the ball well with Johnathan Gray doing most of the damage. The true freshman has been consistently productive. Joe Bergeron is coming off a terrific effort against Iowa State and Malcolm Brown finally picked up more action after dealing with an ankle injury for several weeks.

The TCU secondary has played pretty well all season and it may be the most solid unit on the team. Cornerback Jason Verrett has had his side locked down all year. Sam Carter has been solid at safety. The issue for the secondary is it starts games out well but sometimes wears down late in games.

David Ash is the Big 12's most efficient passer and he's bounced back well from a poor game at Kansas. Ash has been able to connect downfield with Mike Davis and last week with Jaxon Shipley, which has helped soften things up for the ground game as well. Texas is at its best when the offense is being aggressive.

The TCU defensive line turned in its best game of the year against Kansas State. Defensive ends Devonte Fields and Stansly Maponga both play at a high level and are two of the Big 12's best. Maponga has been playing through an injury, but he's playing his best football right now. The Frogs lost DT David Johnson for the year but Chucky Hunter and Davion Pierson have provided a lot of push up front.

This is going to be one of the toughest tests that the UT OL will face all year. Tackles Josh Cochran and Donald Hawkins will have to be on top of their game in both pass protection and run assignments. TCU will make it tough for Texas all across the line.

The Horned Frogs have had a couple issues on punt returns with fumbling the ball. Skye Dawson has been the main guy at punt returner and he can make some plays. TCU does feature true freshmen at kicker and punter. Kicker Jaden Oberkrom started well but has struggled some lately. Same with punter Ethan Perry. Both have to handle the pressure on Thursday night.

Texas' kicking game is hit and miss and it's still a complete guess who will handle the place-kicking chores this week. Punter Alex King has been terrific pretty much all year and the Longhorns have a lot of explosiveness in the return games.

-- Suchomel

Ketchum Brown Suchomel McComas Gaspar Quarter



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